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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for October 2nd, 2008

Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip

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Sadly WordPress cannot handle embedding vimeo but I got the link above from Architecture Week courtesy of BCEN LW. So click the link and watch the video.

The following text and links accompanied the original post and I think they are worth quoting in full. And by the way, that reference to the US goes for us too. In fact our share of the world’s ghg pobably also exceeds our per capita share – and will get much worse if Harper gets his way and expands the oil sands project

It starts out with a polar bear floating on a chunk of ice, playing a violin. Then the narrator hops out and grabs the violin, saying “Give me that. This really isn’t about polar bears anymore!” And you’re off and running, for a compact, very clever, and scientifically sound run-through of some major climate tipping points ­ all left out of the current IPCC projections ­ and what these might mean to us.

Toward the end, there’s even a rewind of the worst effects scenario, and a chance for a happy ending!

A chance which is particularly happy this week, as news is released on the latest worldwide carbon emissions report card ( details here) from the Global Carbon Project. To quote Olive Heffernan, writing in the climate blog at Nature, one of the world’s top scientific journals:

“Most striking is that, despite years of effort, carbon dioxide emissions are increasing at an alarming rate of 3.5% a year ­ faster than the 2.7% predicted by the IPCC in their worst case scenario, and miles ahead of the 0.9% annual rise in the 1990s. Worst still, current measures have been based on a middle-ground IPCC scenario. Pep Candell from the Global Carbon Budget told me that this was ‘astonishing’.”

Please don’t be distracted by some news coverage that will trumpet minor changes in the ranking of the leading greenhouse-gas-emitting countries. Even setting aside real accounting complications due to economic globalization, the United States still emits about 20% of the world’s greenhouse gases, some five times more than its per-capita share (with 4.6% of the world’s population).

The animation and the latest annual carbon report both highlight this essential truth: climate change is now everyone’s problem.

It can be solved. There’s overwhelming evidence for optimism if we get a collective grip, and make real change now.

Equally strong evidence shows it won’t be solved without massive 80% to 90% cuts in gross material consumption in the United States, other deep cuts in consumption in the rest of the developed world, and huge and systematic reforms in the developing world.

It’s all got to happen. And it’s up to all of us to make it happen.

Online from Oregon,

Kevin Matthews

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2008 at 10:23 pm

I sat through the whole debate

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I did not feel tempted to drop in on the Biden v Palin match. It was two hours of, mostly, reasonable debate and I think if anyone came out ahead it was Elizabeth May. She demonstrated that the Greens are not a one issue party, and that she can handle herself in a scrap.

Jack Layton came across as a snake oil salesman. While he got some good shots in – going for the same sweater remark twice was callow. It did not help that he seemed to need to be swivelling his guns too much. He had Harper on the ropes and than suddenly turned on Stephan Dion. And the Liberal leader seemed to have two weak spots – his command of English is far from perfect (but to be fair much better than my French) and he is also on shaky ground when he tries to trot out the Liberal record. As Layton said, we all remember Red Book promises that seemed to evaporate the day after the election.

Duceppe’s best point was that he is not running to be Prime Minister. I actually quite like his policies, up to the point when he suddenly goes back to being Quebecois first and foremost. He was actually calling for a “Made in Canada” industrial  policy at one point – and conceded that seemed strange for a BQ leader.

What I did not hear once anywhere was any reference to transit or transportation. I don’t think I heard anything about the need to allow cities to take more control over their own affairs – and the talk of “fiscal imbalance” was obviously federal/provincial – municipal was not mentioned.

There also seemed to be a willingness to talk about “the environment” as though protecting parks and reducing ghg were the same thing. All of the leaders except Harper were strong on reducing CO2, and Duceppe was very effective at knocking out the idea of “intensity” targets, with a simple illustration using his water glass that anyone could follow.

What was nauseating was the smile on Harper’s face while he was being attacked – by all four of the others – on income trusts, Iraq, healthcare (especially the references to his previous job which was characterised as inviting the Americans to come in and take over). He kept his cool, and his confidence became smugness. I think he began to relish the fact that the divisions of his opponents means he could well take enough seats to keep his job. So kudos to Elizabeth May for having the wit and courage to raise proportional representation as an issue to be dealt with first after the election.

All of them tried to make the US economic crisis the subject of the debate, and Harper’s confidence that we are not in the same boat – while it does have some substance – began to look reckless. Especially when he claimed to have a platform, which the others could not resist repeating has not been published. He is running on his record, not on his promises, so the others obliged by bringing up his support for invading Iraq, which he conceded had been a mistake.

Do debates like this change anyone’s mind? Well not mine anyway. I do think that sitting around a table is better than standing up behind podiums. And the job of moderator was handled as well as anyone could expect. I think Dion scores an extra point for “I did not interrupt you when you were speaking” (aimed at Jack Layton). All the candidates were equally nauseating when it came to the question of the arts – each one using it as an excuse to trot out their families. And each made sure that they addressed their constituency – though Harper’s line about a tough set of standards for the tar sands was simply tendentious.

Not one of them admitted to the possibility of using a deficit to stimulate the economy – which shows that the conservative mindset still rules this arena. There are actually worse things that can happen to a country than a  budget deficit.

If I were Governor General, after the election I would summon the four and tell them that they have a week to come up wioth a workable coalition before telling Harper he can carry on. Becuase it seems most likely that once again more people will vote against the Conservatives than for them. So the Liberal/NDP/Bloq/Green leaders need to be thinking what they are prepared to conceed to get rid of Harper. As Duceppe said, most of the 5 people around that table will not be PM whatever happens.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Posted in politics

B.C. should allow low speed vehicles on all streets

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Craig McInnes in the Vancouver Sun

This opinion piece is worth attention – certainly more than the associated news item. And in general he gets most of right and I agree with him. But he also gets one thing wrong

They [low speed vehciles] are, however, the only kind of electric car you can buy here now.

No – you can get hold of vehicles which have been converted to be all electric. Or you could buy an older vehicle, take out the engine and replace it with an electric motor and a bunch of lead acid batteries. People have been doing this for many years, and the vehicles are legal on all roads and are capable of highway speeds. However, range is limited, and the weight of (and often space taken up by) the batteries also reduces carrying capacity. The reason they are not more widely used is that the cost of the batteries – which need to be replaced every two to three years – means that they cost as much to run as a gasoline vehicle. Lithium Ion batteries will better than lead acid – better energy density and more power, but also greater cost.

There is also nothing new about low speed electric vehicles – they have been around for over a hundred years. Battery cars outsold petroleum in the early years of the twentieth century – until the starter motor was invented. In England they were used for delivering milk – for as long as door step delivery persisted. When I was growing up in East Ham the Borough Council also used them for collecting salvage – both paper/cardboard and waste food (which was fed to pigs).

What is hard to understand is why Transport Canada has been so obsessed with the “safety” of LSVs. Yes these vehicles have not been crash tested or fitted with the latest safety features, but at low speed they do not need to be. What we should be concerned about are the number of vehicles on the road that are capable of operating at speeds far in excess of the legal maximum. And that is not just the boy racers with the often illegal modification kits but cars straight off the production line. Why does TC obsess about vehicles which pose very little threat – if any – yet turn a blind eye to lethal weapons? Why is there no mandatory speed limiter required on high performance cars? (I know the answer, I am being rhetorical).

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2008 at 9:20 am